How Stress Affects Sleep and What You Can Do About It

After a stressful day, all you’d want to do is just crawl up in your bed and fall asleep. However, you somehow find it difficult to sleep and end up tossing and turning as you try to shut your brain off. And when you do fall asleep, you may find yourself waking up several times throughout the night. So, what’s the deal?

You would think that stress can actually tire you out and increase your chances of falling asleep. However, this is not the case. Stress actually has a negative impact on sleep that one can observe from a biological level. Here, we’ll take a further look at the relationship between stress and sleep and cover some solutions that may help you get a better night’s sleep.

What Is the Circadian Rhythm

The circadian rhythm is essentially your body’s internal clock that follows a 24-hour cycle. This includes the physical, mental and behavioural changes your body experiences in response to the day or light and the night or dark. 

The two primary hormones that control the circadian rhythm in the body are cortisol and melatonin. Since cortisol is a stimulating hormone, your body begins to produce it as the sun rises, so you can wake up and start your day. Your cortisol levels peak in the morning and then slowly drop as the day rolls into the night. 

While cortisol is the stimulating hormone, melatonin is the one that promotes sleep. Your body begins to produce melatonin as a response to the sunset, gearing up for sleep. Melatonin levels are highest at night and start to dwindle as the sun rises, and cortisol levels begin to rise.

How Stress Impacts Sleep

Stress can negatively affect one’s sleep by disrupting their circadian rhythm. Biologically, this could appear as cortisol levels peaking much later in the day. This can make someone feel more tired in the morning and more alert at night. The imbalance could also be a result of lower levels of melatonin or melatonin peaking later. This can lead to a lower quality of sleep and sluggishness in the morning. 

During a stressful situation, the body can go into fight or flight mode. This then produces adrenaline, which can increase the cortisol levels in the body. If it is later on in the day and you still have high cortisol levels, this can leave you feeling more alert and stimulated when your body should be winding down. The higher cortisol levels could also affect your melatonin production, leading to more disruptive sleep patterns at night.

How to Relieve Stress for Better Sleep

There are many stress management techniques you can apply to help relieve stress and improve your sleep quality. Here are some of the more common ones.

Limited Screen Time

To reduce stimulation before sleep, it’s best to limit screen time an hour or two before bedtime. In this time, you can instead do some journaling or practice mindfulness meditation. 

Journaling and Meditation

By journaling, you can unload all your stressful thoughts onto paper and free your mind for a more restful sleep. Mindfulness meditation is also another effective way to clear the mind before sleep. It can also support the dropping of cortisol levels and promote melatonin production.

Essential Oils and Supplements

Surrounding yourself with calming fragrances in your bedroom can also help promote sleep. Lavender, in particular, is said to have sedating effects that can help you stay asleep throughout the night. You can also take magnesium supplements to promote better sleep. A form of magnesium called magnesium glycerophosphate can contribute to boosting sleep quality by helping the body and brain relax. It’s also capable of facilitating melatonin, which then calms the nervous system. However, it should be noted that you can’t obtain adequate amounts of magnesium through diet alone. Supplementation is highly recommended to achieve the right amount.

In Summary

The human body runs on a circadian rhythm that can be disrupted by an imbalance of hormones. Stress, in particular, can lead to higher levels of the stimulating hormone while affecting the production of the sleep-promoting hormone. This can lead to one feeling more alert at night and more sluggish in the morning. To avoid this, it’s best to practice some stress management techniques, especially before you go to bed. 

Live a better quality of life with the help of Unichem Greenhithe Pharmacy. We are a health and wellness clinic that offers a range of treatments and options for you to achieve the best health solutions, from choosing the best form of magnesium to help with sleep to identifying the vitamins you need to fight against stress and fatigue. Our pharmacists have training from the Australian College of Nutritional and Environmental medicine, so we truly understand medicine. Book an appointment now!